Texting, Chat Rooms and the Deaf Sex Offender

By Jean F. Andrews

Growth of Texting - Steve Anderson
Growth of Texting – Steve Anderson

Even though many deaf adults read below the third grade level, there are cases where they regularly use texting and enter chat rooms to engage in conversations with people they have not met. There have been cases where deaf adults have engaged in conversations with hearing minors for purposes of sexual encounters.

Some deaf adults are often not aware of the legal consequences of soliciting sex from minors. Some deaf adults have been victims of sting operations. These situations pose challenges for the courts because on one hand these deaf adults may be linguistically incompetent to answer questions from the arresting officer or detective, to understand the Miranda Warning, as to work effectively with an attorney and to stand trial.

Freelance Lady: Sexting Etiquette
Freelance Lady: Sexting Etiquette

When charged with the sex offense they may not understand the consequences of pleading guilty and having to register as a sex offender. They do not understand the repercussions being a registered sex offender has on their living arrangements and job prospects. To complicate matters, there are psycho-social as well as linguistic factors that must be considered if they are to receive a fair hearing or trial. Most attorneys and judges are not familiar with these complex factors. Instead, they often assume if the deaf person can use a texting device and can enter a chat room, then they are literate in the English language.

Klean Treatment Center
Klean Treatment Center

Texting and chat room conversations do not require high levels of literacy and this type of discourse is radically different than the discourse in the jail, prison and courtroom. The picture gets even more complex if the deaf person is sent to a treatment program. There are few facilities in the country that specialize in the deaf sexual offender. Most facilities are designed for the hearing offender with staff that have no knowledge of deaf culture, ways of visual teaching and learning, and do not provide accessible information through a qualified interpreter.


At issue here, is not whether the deaf person is guilty or not of the offense. The critical issue is that a deaf offender must be provided the same access to communication and information as the hearing offender from arrest, to incarceration, to trial, to probation and parole. English is typically not the most effective mode of communication for the deaf offender even though they use texting devices and enter chat rooms regularly for social reasons, both legally and illegally.

Jean F. Andrews is a Reading Specialist and Professor of Deaf Studies/Deaf Education at Lamar University.

4 thoughts on “Texting, Chat Rooms and the Deaf Sex Offender

  1. My thanks to Jean for picking up the slack during what had to be my most intense week in recent memory. But, I’m back – and it’s good to know that when I’m jammed up and can’t post, one of our contribs will step up to the plate and pinch hit.


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